Did The Most Senior White House Official Lie to the NYT about the Content of the Comey Firing Letter?

One week after conducting a “surprise” interview set up by Trump ally Christopher Ruddy (for which he was widely criticized), Mike Schmidt has a widely hailed story describing the evidence supporting an obstruction charges against Donald Trump.

Or maybe against Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Most interestingly, it suggests that several days after Trump attacked Jeff Sessions while watching Jim Comey’s May 3 testimony to Congress, Sessions sent an aide to Congress to try to gin up a series of damning stories about Comey.

White House aides gave updates to Mr. Trump throughout, informing him of Mr. Comey’s refusal to publicly clear him. Mr. Trump unloaded on Mr. Sessions, who was at the White House that day. He criticized him for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, questioned his loyalty, and said he wanted to get rid of Mr. Comey.


Two days after Mr. Comey’s testimony, an aide to Mr. Sessions approached a Capitol Hill staff member asking whether the staffer had any derogatory information about the F.B.I. director. The attorney general wanted one negative article a day in the news media about Mr. Comey, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said the incident did not occur. “This did not happen and would not happen,” said the spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur Flores. “Plain and simple.”

Hmmm. I don’t think Sessions has honored his recusal.

He may have also ordered up Rod Rosenstein to suggest Comey needed firing.

Earlier that day, Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, had pulled one of Mr. McGahn’s deputies aside after a meeting at the Justice Department. Mr. Rosenstein told the aide that top White House and Justice Department lawyers needed to discuss Mr. Comey’s future. It is unclear whether this conversation was related to the effort to dig up dirt on Mr. Comey.

The following weekend, Trump went to Bedminster to have Stephen Miller write up a letter firing Comey. It’s this detail I’m most interested in.

In interviews with The Times, White House officials have said the letter contained no references to Russia or the F.B.I.’s investigation. According to two people who have read it, however, the letter’s first sentence said the Russia investigation had been “fabricated and politically motivated.” [my emphasis]

Remember, Schmidt has just had a rather celebrated interview with one particular White House official. Er, The White House Official. Half of the off-the-record comments omitted from the NYT transcript of the interview clearly pertain to the Russian investigation.

TRUMP: Everybody knows the answer already. There was no collusion. None whatsoever.


TRUMP: Maybe I’ll just say a little bit of a [inaudible]. I’ve always found Paul Manafort to be a very nice man. And I found him to be an honorable person. Paul only worked for me for a few months. Paul worked for Ronald Reagan. His firm worked for John McCain, worked for Bob Dole, worked for many Republicans for far longer than he worked for me. And you’re talking about what Paul was many years ago before I ever heard of him. He worked for me for — what was it, three and a half months?


TRUMP: What I’ve done is, I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department. But for purposes of hopefully thinking I’m going to be treated fairly, I’ve stayed uninvolved with this particular matter.


TRUMP: For purposes of the Justice Department, I watched Alan Dershowitz the other day, who by the way, says I, says this is a ridiculous —

SCHMIDT: He’s been very good to you.

TRUMP: He’s been amazing. And he’s a liberal Democrat. I don’t know him. He’s a liberal Democrat. I watched Alan Dershowitz the other day, he said, No. 1, there is no collusion, No. 2, collusion is not a crime, but even if it was a crime, there was no collusion. And he said that very strongly. He said there was no collusion. And he has studied this thing very closely. I’ve seen him a number of times. There is no collusion, and even if there was, it’s not a crime. But there’s no collusion. I don’t even say [inaudible]. I don’t even go that far.


TRUMP: So for the purposes of what’s going on with this phony Russian deal, which, by the way, you’ve heard me say it, is only an excuse for losing an election that they should have won, because it’s very hard for a Republican to win the Electoral College. O.K.?

This last break in the transcript picks up right where the information these White House officials lying to the NYT leave off: with the claim that this is a “fabricated and politically motivated” investigation.

Particularly given that Schmidt has been working this aspect of the story for months, what are the chances that the most senior White House official lied to Schmidt about what he had written to justify firing Jim Comey?

63 replies
  1. Rugger9 says:

    This is a tip of the iceberg.  There is always more to be found, and the effort expended to prevent the finding of those nuggets is proportional to the damage on its way (especially when the lawyers jump in). Pro tip: litigation means discovery motions that cannot be guaranteed to stay in the desired boxes.

    It can backfire, see how the book publication was pitched forward to spite the WH. IMHO this is a sign that some of the nation is becoming quite willing to dare the Kaiser to do something about whatever slight he is complaining about.

    What’s next, yanking us out of the Olympics?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Document analysis.  It’s one reason we read Marcy.  Good snark might be another, but the analysis is the main draw.  It’s why the Intercept should have hired her full time and treated her like a journalist instead of a grape picker.

  2. pseudonymous in nc says:


    The idea that Schmidt was playing a longer game with that interview — letting him ramble on and off the record with limited pushback in order to nail down a couple of things for this story — perhaps explains the immediate extended defensiveness of his colleagues. It was still a mediocre interview very badly (and hurriedly) written up, but in journalistic terms it was work product, just one conversation with a White House official.

    Did the White House get wind that this was coming, I wonder? The writeup seems fairly damaging to McGahn and very damaging to Sessions, but as a few people have noted, Sessions stands between Most Senior White House Official and Mueller.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      (Which is to say, you can interview other White House officials on/off-record and the content will never see publication, but you can’t interview the president as an unwitting source for a story and then spike the on-the-record bits.)

  3. lefty665 says:

    The letter he sent certainly said nothing about Russia. It did assert Sessions and Rosenstein had opined that Comey needed to go https://www.cnn.com/2017/05/09/politics/fbi-james-comey-fired-letter/index.html  Rosenstein’s letter was caustic on Comey’s performance in letting Hillary off the hook. Not sure how much import to attach to a report that someone alleged they saw a draft of a letter written by someone other than Trump that did not resemble the one that was actually sent.

    Thought at least one of Trump’s subsequent tweets muddied the Comey/Russia waters, but a quick Google search does not turn it up.


    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      That’s the final version of the letter, not the one drawn up around the Bedminster weekend where only the inner circle were present. Also the one that ended with the mysterious delay in DC after landing.

    • TGuerrant says:

      It’s been reported in the past that Stephen Miller drafted a lengthy screed for Trump to issue firing Comey.  McGahn struggled to get them to edit it down, apparently to avoid an open admission that Trump was obstructing justice.

      The WH strategy shifted to having DOJ issue something criticizing Comey that Trump could then refer back to in a short, public statement on Comey’s firing.  Sessions and Rosenstein were summoned to the WH and assigned that task.

      A big question has been what happened to Miller’s longer, earlier draft memo and what it said.  In bits and pieces, it came together that Rosenstein had been given the draft and, after he had Mueller in place, handed it to Mueller.

      But now the NYT says that screed began with a barefaced rant about the Russia investigation.  If so, then as Rosenstein drafted the Comey-mean-to-HRC rationale that Trump would cite in firing Comey, Rosenstein knew full well that Trump’s purpose was to derail the Russia investigation, that is, to obstruct justice.

      If all of the above is true, then did Rosenstein participate in the obstruction of justice by writing a new rationale for Trump?  Did his bank shot to Mueller absolve Rosenstein of said crime?

      • lefty665 says:

        Seems there’s plenty to go after Trump on for things he actually did. Is getting off after something that may or may not have crossed his mind really productive?  Have we become that Catholic that the sinful thought is as bad as the sinful act?

        Think you’ve got good questions about Rosenstein.


      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        One of the dot-joining implications from the Schmidt piece was that the final memo from Rosenstein might have reflected (legally dubious) advice from one of McGahn’s deputies that the FBI director could only be fired for cause. The deputy, a DOJ veteran, gave that advice because he predicted the political fallout of firing Comey.

        • lefty665 says:

          That story is here  It says Dhillon withheld from Trump that Comey served at will, that Trump needed no cause to fire him. That even further muddies the waters of what iterations the firing letter went through, why and what it means. If Trump drafted a letter on advice from a conspiracy of counsel (as you have suggested) to mislead him, who is obstructing?

          • pseudonymous in nc says:

            Your link is just to a paraphrase of part of the Schmidt story. It’s not new reporting.

            who is obstructing?

            See, that’s trying to be a bit too clever with phrasing. The implication is that Dhillon provided dubious legal advice for somewhat political reasons: that is, to prevent the instability of having a special counsel investigating the president. Obstructing a politically stupid act by offering a dubious legal opinion (if that is happened — you’re the one who introduced “hearsay and speculation” to the conversation) is not exactly the same as obstructing a criminal investigation by firing the investigator, is it?

          • bmaz says:

            Yeah, I think the FBI Director, a position for which was legislatively set at ten years specifically to try to separate it from the four year cycle of p/artisan politics is FAR more than a common “at will” job as the term is commonly understood.

            • lefty665 says:

              “at will” was my non lawyer take that comes from working in Virginia, where “You’re fired” is all an employer has to do to terminate an employee. Dhillon apparently found (in a professional legal sense) that Trump could fire Comey without cause (if that’s the right word) but told him otherwise.

              Thanks as always for your legal eye. I’ll ditch the “at will” syntax. In Virginia cabinet secretaries, agency heads and many of their deputies serve at the pleasure of the Governor. They can be and occasionally are, summarily dismissed, although it is usually dressed up a bit nicer with a letter of resignation. They do not enjoy the protections (due process?) afforded classified state employees. I presume that is true at the Federal level too. Is there a rule of thumb that describes generally at what level that break occurs and how much discretion the President has to dismiss executive branch employees?


          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            Being a lawyer for the president is not a typical lawyering job; it is inherently political.  A White House lawyer would not be doing her job if her advice ignored policy and political consequences of legal acts.

            As bmaz says, there are legal as well as policy and political arguments against the president exercising his legal right to fire the FBI director.  All of those are over and above avoiding the appearance of impropriety – or, in the Don’s case, the appearance of obstruction of justice.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          The problem would be in withholding information rather than framing a recommendation within its risks.  Corporate lawyers often have to deal with similar limitations in the executives they counsel, who only want to hear what they want to hear rather than an analysis of the legal consequences their conduct creates.

      • Rugger9 says:

        It may prove to be the case that Rosenstein can be hit with an accessory charge, but that depends upon what text made it to Rosenstein.  If McGahn had already done some editing for removing the obvious obstruction evidence I can’t see why prior versions would be forwarded unless Rosenstein said that there was not enough there yet to fire Comey.  I don’t think the evidence is there yet to implicate Rosenstein in this particular way.

        The other thing I would observe (maybe it’s wishful thinking) is that Rosenstein as a result of the Kaiser’s meddling and insults has evolved from the toady willing to fire Comey (or at least justify it to himself in a “typical Washington BS” kind of way) into someone who will dig in if the Kaiser tries to fire Mueller if for no other reason than he would fully grasp now the importance of the need for the truth about the Russian hold on the Kaiser.

    • greengiant says:

      Here are other public statements that unmuddle along with Sept 1,  newsburst on the various drafts ( timing Priebus had been replaced by Kelly).

      “The White House had initially said Comey was fired based upon the recommendation from Rosenstein, but that explanation was exposed as artifice by Trump himself, who gave an interview soon afterwards, citing the “Russia thing” as his chief concern.”




      • greengiant says:

        Thinking obstruction is just one in a long series of charges.  Will take a lot more than this for a GOP congress to even get impeachment out of the House.   “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters”

      • lefty665 says:

        Thanks gg, I knew Trump had subsequently linked the firing to Russia, but mistakenly thought it was in a tweet.

  4. Rugger9 says:

    I see that Bannon is now graced with a nickname (Sloppy Steve) which now punts him off the Mar-A-Lago island officially, so he can start his 2020 Presidential run.  I also note that the Kaiser has moved on to claiming that Wolff didn’t have access, but as I understand it there are rumors that Wolff has tapes.  It’s hard to argue with tapes unless you can plausibly claim they are faked.  I also would have thought that Hope Hicks had more class than to date Corey Lewandowski much less go further than dinner and a movie.  Corey has no redeeming social qualities I can see, and he’s not wealthy as far as I know. In a word, ewwwwwww.

    So, what this tells me is that there is something really big out there.  I see chatter on the left-leaning sites that Mueller already has a provable case of obstruction of justice vs. Kaiser Donald.  However, I think that Bannon’s book is probably on the mark in the idea that Mueller is going after the whole gang from the outside into the center like they do for the Mob.

    Let us also not forget that Nunes was on the Kaiser’s transition team, and that McTurtle and LyinRyan did use the Russian hack information in (at least) some of the Florida elections (which may have included Gaetz, a principal voice demanding Mueller step down).  There is a stench of self preservation as a motive in the calls to wrap up this Russia thing from the party that has engaged in eight (so far) investigations into Benghazi (which came about because the GOP didn’t fund security there), and directing the DO”J” to looking at HRC’s emails again.


    and for the tapes (scroll down, h/t via Digby):


  5. uncle tungsten says:

    Apart from Trumps ‘Russia thing’ there is Uranium One and Hillaries ‘Russia thing’. Soon we might see a bipartisan position on shutting down any ‘Russia thing’. But then I wonder which mob Mueller is after, the Mogilevitch group or the Cosa Nostra clan? I guess that depends on Uber allegiances.

    • bmaz says:

      Oh, hi, I see you are truly an Uranium One Hillary deluded ass clown.

      At least we have established what you are. Thanks for the confirmation!

  6. Bay State Librul says:

    On spec and on deck, my pick of the person who might “Judas” Mueller

    “President Trump’s nominee to lead the Justice Department’s criminal division told senators Tuesday that he once represented a Russian bank that was alleged to have a Trump Organization connection, but he cast that representation as a routine part of his legal work and forcefully asserted that he would be an independent and fair-minded law enforcement official.”

    Yes, the possible henchman in waiting, Brian Benczkowski.

    • bmaz says:

      This is a solid observation. Benczkowski was slid in without much notice (though pretty sure Marcy did). She is not a clean player.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Methinks that saying that representing that sort of Russian client was a routine part of his legal work might be a double entendre that should put his nomination on indefinite hold.

  7. Trip says:

    @Bay State Librul

    Paul Ryan, first. He’s allowing Nunes access to investigative product which might actually involve himself.

    Devin Nunes claims win over FBI on Trump dossier files after Paul Ryan takes his side

    At the meeting with Ryan, “Rosenstein and Wray wanted to make one last effort to persuade him to support their position,” CNN reports:
    The documents in dispute were mostly FBI investigative documents that are considered law enforcement sensitive and are rarely released or shared outside the bureau. During the meeting, however, it became clear that Ryan wasn’t moved and the officials wouldn’t have his support if they proceeded to resist Nunes’ remaining highly classified requests. … The Justice Department and the FBI also had learned recently that the White House wasn’t going to assert executive privilege or otherwise intervene to try to stop Nunes. [CNN]
    House Intelligence Committee members will reportedly be allowed to view the documents in a secure facility at the Justice Department. The Justice Department also agreed to let Nunes’ committee interview a host of DOJ and FBI officials in January, including FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page, ex-members of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team whose released text messages were critical of Trump and other politicians.


  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Hmm. Trump attacking his own FBI, attacking his own Attorney General to encourage him to attack the FBI that works for him, demanding that top US law enforcement officers declare that Lord Trump is free from the taint of wrongdoing, demanding dirt on them that he can daily spread round like manure on the garden. Conduct like that began at the start of his administration and continues today.

    As Digby frequently says, that’s not normal. It is far from normal. It is obsession. It elicits screams of guilty knowledge like a 1950s 3D horror film.

    Aides routinely write most things senior executives call their own. Good ones edit them for content and emphasis, pace and delivery. Trump, not being one, rarely edits the routine ones; he contradicts them via tweet to vent his frustration at having to say the right things.

    When it’s important to him, he writes things, then his aides edit him for The Stupid and the illegal. Trump then says what he wants regardless. Just like his warm chat with the Russian ambassador with only the TASS man present, a rare venue where he seems to have spoken the truth.

    Denmark had nothing on the rottenness in this administration.

    • 200Toros says:

      Well Said! “The Stupid and The Illegal” has a nice ring to it, for a book or movie about his downfall.
      A few perhaps conflicting observations.

      Can we all agree that the only time anyone would use the phrase “there was no X, but even if there was, X isn’t a crime” is when they know, beyond shadow of doubt, that they were X-ing like there was no tomorrow? Like there was a fire-sale on X’s, and they had backed up the truck?

      However, as has been explained many times, collusion isn’t in fact a legal term, and won’t come up in any legal proceedings against the president. So it’s kind of like saying, “I can guarantee you that Mueller won’t be charging me with Tom Foolery.” Accurate, as far as that goes.

      This ignores the seemingly greater threat of Mueller’s mandate “the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters”. Which he’s already doing.

      So, if he really wants to claim that he’s in no danger whatsoever from the Special Counsel, shouldn’t Trump be saying something like “everybody knows there were no federal crimes, and even if there were, federal crimes are not real crimes” ?

       Or something to that effect. Repeated ad nauseum.

       Which, I will grant you, would sound ridiculous coming from anyone else…

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      My bad.  Digby today has a list of commentators who agree that Donald is semi-literate, which is a waffling way to say he can’t read.  He doesn’t “read” anything but headlines about himself – and that’s because they’re in large print and he can sound out the words.  He acts as if he’s afraid of it, as he would be if asked to shake Hillary’s hand instead of grabbing her somewhere lower.

      His defenders claim that the Don is “post-literate”.  The coinage must be a tongue-in-cheek way of saying that if it’s not a vision bite coming out of a tv screen, covered in onions and melted cheese on a sesame seed bun, it’s not on Don’s menu.

      Per Tom Sullivan at Digby:

      The reason the majority in Congress cannot be entrusted with removing a semiliterate, authoritarian, emotional toddler from the Oval Office is how closely they reflect the voters who put him there.

      Bang on.  It doesn’t take an indictment from Bob Mueller.  It wouldn’t take a Senate conviction for “high crimes and misdemeanors” to remove him from office.  It takes his cabinet and the senior members of Congress to say, “Don, it’s time to go home,” while walking him out to the bus stop.  Seriously.  Agreement is all that’s necessary.

      Mike Pence automatically steps into his place, which would make most Goopers happy.  No loss of power, they did the right thing, the nation remains in safe hands.  At least Mike would only press his modestly-sized nuclear button if he thought it would hasten the coming of the end times.

      • lefty665 says:

        My wager since campaign days has been autism spectrum disorders and reading disabilities, things like dyslexia, or lysdexia for all you dyslexic folks. That could explain the short attention span, erratic behavior and disinclination, at best, to read.

        Pence is scarier than Trump. It is zealot versus chaotic. Loon on a mission as opposed to chaos. Some say run them both out, but that would leave us with Ryan. Stupid is not an improvement.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Schmidt’s milquetoast “analysis” of the evidence against Trump on obstruction is a set-up for the Republicans, but disses his own reporting.  If the latter were true, the case for obstruction would not be as hard as Schmidt contemplates.  A nice example of NYT he said – she said reporting.

    As for the president, any guy who longs for Roy Cohn to be his top lawyer – a more cruel, vicious, self-hater would be hard to find – just laid bare his kindred spirit.

    • lefty665 says:

      Cohn as a role model and early mentor for Trump is scary. It is certainly consistent with his M.O.: Attack, Attack, Attack. Pure Cohn.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The HuffPost’s headline picture just now makes Donald Trump look like Denny Crane on his most forgetful, bad hair day.

  11. John Forde says:

    To what extent did Ryan consider his own legal exposure before siding with Nunes in the Rosenstein & Wray meeting?

    Should he have sought the advice of counsel in or prior to that meeting?

    Is there any chance he did ?

    • greengiant says:

      Paul, Wisconsin,  Hand counts?  We don’t do hand counts,  Ryan?   Roger Stone:  “Walker told me they hacked the last 5 elections”.   Election law violations are jealously guarded state law, yes?   Which is one reason Koch and ALEC go for the state legislatures,  judiciary and finally bar associations.  Any lawyers trying to get in the way of the grift get disbarred.   Favorite tactic,  get them dis barred out of state and have reciprocity take away their license in their home state.  Best payback story todate,  disbarred lawyer ran for judge and won.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Getting a look at some of what the FBI’s investigation has come up with and shoveling it to McGahn and Trump was probably more important to them than their personal liberty.  Security of the country and all that.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      A low degree felony.  Likely to be the least of McGahn’s worries if he participated in Trump’s probable obstruction, which may well be continuing.  McGahn’s client is the presidency, not Trump personally, a nuance neither man is likely to respect.

      (Digby has a nice piece up on McGahn’s sordid history.  Trump again seems to have found the worst man possible for the job.)

      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        Yeah, with McGahn it’s like you can get out of Atlantic City (where his dad was a casino lawyer) but Atlantic City eventually catches up with you.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          That explains a lot, especially why the bridge abutments there use less gravel fill than the equation usually calls for.

          • JAAG says:

            EW wrote a while ago about mob lawyers working for Trump people and I wondered which lawyers she was talking about.  EW said that there were not many DC lawyers that wanted to work for these guys because they didn’t reliably pay bills, were difficult clients etc.

            Which lawyers, other than McGahn father, are mob lawyers?

              • pseudonymous in nc says:

                Alan Futerfas (Uday’s lawyer) may not be a “mob lawyer” but he has led the criminal defense for several members of the Italian-American business community in the tri-state area.

  12. Rugger9 says:

    More documentation regarding obstruction “investigation management” which Mueller has in his hands.  Apparently Reince took notes of the Sessions gambit.  It means to me that Mueller has his smoking gun(s).

    Also, Digby has more mob buddies of the Kaiser (who K Donald says he doesn’t know) and what they are up to.

    The point as noted above regarding Roy Cohn being the attack-dog mentor that he was is quite sound.  He was McCarthy’s lead attack dog (Nixon was his political ally) and a true believer.  I’m not sure how the Kaiser’s footsie with the KGB Colonel would have played with Roy, though.


    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Roy Cohn was a shite of the first order, the kind of guy who makes J. Edgar look like Atticus Finch.

      • bmaz says:

        It has been a looong time since I have really read much or looked at it, but the interaction of the Kennedys with McCarthy …. and Roy Cohn … is pretty amazing. First Irish allies, and then RFK among the vanguard that brought Cohn and McCarthy down. Pretty interesting stuff as I recall. Wish there was a book on just this (there is not, is there?).

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          “Roy Cohn was once the most feared lawyer in New York City.  A ruthless master of dirty tricks, he smeared the reputations of his political enemies, helped send the Rosenbergs to the electric chair, and had more than one Mafia don on his speed dial.  But his most enduring legacy is Donald Trump, whom he took under his wing in the 1970s.”

          Esquire, July 2016 reprint of Ken Auletta’s 1978 article on Cohn.  The Guardian has a summary of what brought Roy Cohn and Donald Trump together, as does Politico.  Elizabeth Mehren reviews Nicholas von Hoffman’s 1988 biography of Cohn, Citizen Cohn, here.

          Apart from being chief counsel for Tailgunner Joe McCarthy’s infamous committee (pipping an angry Bobby Kennedy for the post), Cohn was an AUSA in Manhattan and was on the team that prosecuted the Rosenbergs.

          The prosecution was rife with alleged illegalities, among them, routine ex parte conferences, with talk of damning information that was so secret I can’t tell you what it is, judge, but trust me, they did it.  The damning testimony Cohn did elicit at trial from star witness, David Greenglass, was later recanted, but long after the Rosenbergs were convicted and executed.

          Cohn reportedly saw nothing wrong with blacklists.  He saw nothing wrong with tax evasion: the IRS claimed he owed over $3 million when he died.  Cohn thought people jumping out of windows was “a lot of baloney” – which would be news to Frank Olson – even as the CIA seemed to be reviving the ancient art of defenestration.

          Cohn’s later NYC private practice specialized in high-priced work defending Mafia bosses and billionaires, like Donald Trump and S.I. Newhouse.  He counted J. Edgar, the CIA’s Bill Casey, and noted man about town and alleged sexual predator, the arch-conservative and powerful Francis Cardinal Spellman among his close friends.

          Cohn was homosexual and died of AIDS in 1986, denying both.  In the words of Politico’s Michael Kruse:

          “He was a tangle of contradictions, a Jewish anti-Semite and a homosexual homophobe”

          Shortly before he died, Roy Cohn was finally disbarred for “dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation”, despite having a list of character witnesses that read like NYC’s Who’s Who:

          In a unanimous decision, a five-judge panel of the Appellate Division of [the New York] State Supreme Court said his conduct in four legal matters was “unethical,” “unprofessional” and, in one case, “particularly reprehensible.”

          Cohn could have used his gifts differently.  He started his privileged life as a judge’s son, graduated from Columbia Law School at 20, and was as ambitious as he was smart.  He collected celebrities like J. Edgar Hoover collected secret files, and was a made man until his death, frequently representing the high and mighty.

          Robert Sherrill, in this controversial Nation article, (for subscribers) asked a common question: why was a man as loathsome as Roy Cohn so popular?  This article’s answer is that Roy Cohn was the ultimate fixer.  He could get almost anybody out of a jam and didn’t care how he did it.  (The source for Donald Trump’s mantra that winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing, is likely to be Cohn, not a football coach.)

          Unlike Donald Trump, but like the fictional Don Corleone, Roy did favors for lots of people, as long as they paid him, repaid the favors, and didn’t spill his secrets.  Cohn spent a career demonstrating that the only language that counted was power.  Like Donald Trump, he was sure that the rules didn’t apply to him.  In the end, they did.  He was a thoroughly nasty piece of work.

  13. bmaz says:

    McGahn is truly horrible at his job. That would be enough usually, but he, on top of that, has the worst client in the universe. The net result is truly atrocious. He may….may….be just smart enough to not lie to Mueller’s team. We shall see.


  14. Jaag says:

    This is totally his off ramp moment. Maybe, just maybe, He actually takes the off ramp and Leaves. It would make his life a lot easier later.

    I am actually worried that a few of the trump insiders have learned from previous and current lawyers where they are at risk. They could try the old trick of searching for new counsel as soon as things really heat up. When they get a period of time to do so they get time to improve their alibis and maybe even cook up evidence. I first thought of this when Jared’s lawyer left his side. She claimed conflicts from what I remember. I know in my totally unrelated area of practice in a different country, we often withdraw because it is the only way left to practice ethically,so as not to aid and abett a clients misleading conduct before a court. The withdrawal actually saves the clients rights to a reset and is the least prejudicial to them.

    I wonder whether McGahn is considering doing something like this. He probably stared at the off ramp a few times a while ago and obv didn’t take it. It feels like this is the last chance he will have to maintain a shred of dignity, or whatever of it is left after the Schmidt story re misleading president (it was definitely not a young aide, as NYT claims, it was don m. I would bet on it).

    I have withdrawn because clients won’t listen to advice. it’s not that hard, actually. and it’s something you have to do if you have any integrity. Lawyers who are decent people and care about justice do it every day. It’s pathetic that the white house counsel won’t face that fact. Every law society regulator who woke up and read nyt Schmidt article knows there are law society complaints all over the fact pattern in there.

    The doj denials are also sketchy.

    Sorry if off thread.

  15. Wise Fool says:

    When/if Trump is removed will the entire “apparatus” that is currently caught up in the drama of proving collusion with Russian collusion/Russian meddling set their sights on other corrupt players in a corrupt system that produces corrupt politicians? Or will this be a case of get the GOPer but hear nothing, see nothing when the Dems are back in power?

    Will American overt and covert meddling in foreign elections be vigorously opposed? How about America’s fondness for “regime change” and invading sovereign nations that pose no threat to the homeland…?

    I get it….bringing down Trump is fun. Like being in a real life spy thriller. No sarcasm intended.

    When the drama ends and Trump is removed and Russian meddling proven, the media and the DC establishment will lose all interest in punishing crooked politicians (so long as they keep their crude, rude and lewd outbursts to a minimum). They will, however, keep agitating for an expanded conflict with Russia and Iran, if Trump hasn’t delivered one to them by then.

    The problems facing America are far bigger than Trump, and the outraged hysteria over Russian meddling is bit rich given our foreign policy track record.

    In addition to the problems plaguing the American state and the country’s electoral system, the anger and alienation people feel after being subject to decades of neoliberal economics will still be here. With no Trump figure to project this on and the fallout from massive income inequality becoming very difficult to sweep under the rug, an already unhinged and war obsessed establishment that can’t accept a world where America isn’t the alpha dog may lose the plot completely.

    Does anyone think about this stuff?

    • Trip says:

      Granted, I’ve only been a lurker for a short while, so I can’t contemplate the comprehensive history, but from what I have read, Emptywheel has never made any appearance of strict tribal partisan hackery. Your editorializing here seems completely misguided and assumes that the writers and readers are extremely naive and grossly uninformed, to the point where your comment might be interpreted as condescension, or worse, a miscalculated intentional diversion from the specific topic. But since I do not know your history either as a self-professed johnny-come-lately, I will give benefit of the doubt, and assume that you are a newcomer as well, unfamiliar with Marcie’s balanced approach toward corruption and nefarious deeds, or the possibility that I have misunderstood your intention.

    • greengiant says:

      Yes, if you watch the comments the bipartisan corruption is a problem.  The US is a failed experiment in government by K-street and blackmail. Some estimates are that the half life maybe as short as two or three years. The idiots in Congress were in a bubble.  The major turning point in 2017 is that all congresspersons now have 24/7 security. A little harder to be in denial when you see your bodyguard and think/realize you have a bodyguard because you are part of a criminal enterprise. I think Mark Ames made the best point about the villainization of “Russia” when he said hey, my wife is Russian,  my kids are half Russian. Points to the absurdity of laying blame on an ethnic group or a captured nation state rather than just the oligarchs and government who are causing the conflict.

      There is much dismay at the top down control of both US parties.  Bottom up populist movements such as Occupy, BLM, Tea Party, Trump are quickly co-opted or destroyed. I do not think foreign observers, or for that matter those in the beltway bubble understand the depths of local corruption in the US.

      The first second someone raises the Magnitsky sanctions they identify themselves as an oligarch troll. The economic effect on the US or rest of the world is of no matter. The Crimean sanctions seem to have a much larger economic effect but are invisible to the US. The real power of Russia is in energy. In the US fracking was a revolution with various winners and losers and has clouded the forecast for peak oil. This should be just as big for Russia and the rest of the world.

      The forever wars bankrupt the US faster than the CCCP was bankrupted. The expansion of NATO to Eastern Europe,  Bulgaria in 2004!! was part of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars under the auspices of the NATO treaty. Crimes and conspiracies go back hundreds of years and take thousands of pages to discuss.

      The Trump drama is not just about the presidency.  Trump/GOP is affecting every day life in the US with mismanagement. CHIPs, Puerto Rico, Tax cut for billionaires, (This is a 3,000 dollar per person tax bill dropped on the door step of everyone in the US),  tax raises for blue states and the upper middle class. The US oligarchs salivate over cuts in regulations, social and medical spending and as well privatization of infrastructure. Continued overspending for military, intelligence community, agriculture subsidies, government mandated monopolies and so forth,  are just part of a long list.

  16. earlofhuntingdon says:

    There’s a difference between funny, haha, and funny, OMG.  Few on this blog think Donald Trump is fun.  No on in govt thinks he’s fun, although many think Donald is a fucking moron, even if he enriched his fellow plutocrats at the expense of everyone else.

    No one here or overseas who doesn’t hide their face inside a hood thinks this is fun.  When the CDCs feel the need to give a briefing on surviving nuclear explosion, they’re not feeling the fun.

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